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Behavioural Neuroscience Lecture 2: History
Facts about the brain:
• Purpose: to process sensory information in order to guide movement (and thus
control behaviour)
• Weighs 1,400 grams
• 3% of body weight, consumes 20% of energy
• Made up of 100 billion neurons, 1 million synapses, lots of circuits
• Most complex system in the universe
• Everything you think, feel and experience are a product of neurons in the
brain What is behavioural neuroscience?
• Scientific study of the role of the central nervous system in behaviour
• Combines psychology and neuroscience
• Identifies what part of brain controls what aspect of self Phineas Gage:
• Phineas Gage (railway foreman from Virginia)
• Incident involving tamping iron (1845): detonated explosives, tamping iron
went through brain
• Survived but with profound damage to frontal lobe
• Treated by John Harlow (physician)
• Recovered and went home after 10 weeks
• Experienced behavioural (personality) changes: proved that one part of brain
controls certain aspects of a person
• Went from “reliable and kind” to “disrespectful and aggressive” (common
• Held numerous jobs and died in 1860 (probably from epilepsy subsequent to
the brain injury)
• Proof in 1800s that parts of brain control different things (brain is important)
The history of Neuroscience: 1. Ancient Cultures:
• Thought heart was a vase of the mind
• Reflected religious/moral views
• Limited study methods
• Finds from chance discoveries
• Controversial 2. Hippocrates (Greece, 450BC)
• First to suggest that the brain is the center of the body (not heart, contrary to
• Four bodily “humours”
3. Galen (Rome, 130CE)
• Tested on animals
• Revised dissection/vivisection after dark ages
• Made detailed drawings of brain (clear sense of structures)
• Advanced knowledge of brain structure
• Failed to explain function 4. Descartes (France, 1596CE)
• Impressed by hydraulically controlled statues
• Animals controlled mechanistically
• Animal spirits in brain directed by pineal gland ventricles (used mind like
joystick to control)
• Humans work on their own
• Proposed model of how things work 5. Thomas Willis (England, 1621CE)
• Rejected idea that mind resides in ventricles
• Thought generated by outer tissue of cerebral hemispheres (cortex)
• Based idea on comparative anatomy and effects of cortex damage on
• Believed cortex contained animal spirits (transported by white matter) 6. Luigi
Galvani (Italy, 1737CE)
• Rejected idea of animal spirits flowing through nerves
• Frag experiments: electrical charge applied to frogs legs to make muscles
• Suggested nerves must be coated in fat (insulation to prevent any leaking)
• Inspired books like Frankenstein (electrical happening in brain to allow
thought) 7. Franz Joseph Gall (Germany, 1758CE)
• Thought brain was composed of several distinct “organs of thought” or
faculties reflecting bumps on skull
• Introduced skull map used to read a person’s character (phrenology) 8. Paul
Broca (France, 1824-1880)
• Described patient unable to speak after damage to left frontal lobe (now
known as Broca’s area)
• Key role in production of speech, not to do with language completely but
motive control